Ambiguous Silences?

© By Alex Pryce

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Ruth Hooley, poet and feminist activist, observed that in 1985 women’s poetry seemed to be less prevalent in Northern Ireland as it was elsewhere, commenting, ‘[t]his silence is ambiguous. Does it mean an absence—there are hardly any women writing?’. This article considers how anthologies of poetry published in the contemporary era in Northern Ireland can be seen as agents of exclusion for women writers at the same time as these anthologies were effectively instating a post– 1960s canon and restating a generational dimension for which poetry from the North of Ireland would become known.

In drawing on the broad context of anthology publication, this article examines how female poets are absent from an otherwise thriving literary culture and questions whether this silence is, as Hooley suggests, ambiguous. In responding to these issues, this article addresses both the commercial business of poetry production alongside the literary representation of women in poetry published in representative publications such as anthologies in order to re–insert women into Northern Irish poetic discussion. By investigating women’s writing as unanthologized and addressing the lack of agency of women figures in verse published by male poets, this article argues that the way in which women are represented inside and outside publication in the second half of the twentieth–century is severely lacking.

The full article is available as a PDF by clicking here

Courtesy of Alex Pryce, originally published in Peer English, a refereed annual e-journal produced jointly by the Department of English at the University of Leicester and the English Association

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